Emotional regulation is a central concept that very much underlies one’s ability to alter more deeply entrenched conditioning. This is because very often some type of internalized “fear“ unconsciously prompts strategies that have developed over time either to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes or avoid negative outcomes. Usually, this fear took root earlier in life when one did not have the coping skills or adult perspective to remain grounded and clearheaded in the face of perceived adverse situations. As mentioned previously, these situations can often relate as far back to infancy and early childhood interactions.
What becomes necessary is to help attorneys cultivate and strengthen skills to remain grounded, calm, and clearheaded in the face of external situations that have prompted fear and habitual reactions to various sets of past circumstances. Through mindfulness, we can cultivate the ability to proceed through the world from a stance of “non-judgemental awareness“ that significantly tempers reactivity. When we no longer take things so personally and become more consciously aware of our internalized judgments and expectations, one becomes increasingly able to tolerate discomfort in a way that no longer inexorably leads to undesirable habitual reactivity.
We will begin our work involving mindfulness by addressing certain misconceptions about mindfulness practice and meditation. Many people have internalized the notion of the ultimate goal of mindfulness practice as being free from thinking. In highly cerebral, analytical professions such as law practice, this notion on its face can appear highly desirable. In practice, however, meditation practice does not lead to the “cessation “of thought. Rather, by spending time in quiet, non-judgemental reflection, we come to appreciate, over time, the ephemeral and impermanent nature of our thoughts. In coming to better appreciate the true nature of our thoughts as phenomena that simply arise and pass away, we begin to loosen the attachment that we previously had to much of our habitual thinking.
It is in the loosening of this attachment that we become increasingly able to consider a wider range of possibilities in many different life situations. In addition, consistent, dedicated practice can help one approach the possibility that the constellation of thoughts that had given rise to a crystallized sense of “self” are impermanent and insubstantial. In realizing this we become able to realize freedom from previously entrenched notions about who we are that may have led to pervasive reactionary behavior over time geared towards protecting this conceptualized “self.”